Executives and union leaders at UK state-funded broadcaster the BBC are due to meet today (Thursday) in a bid to avert further strikes over planned job cuts.

Both sides will meet at conciliation service ACAS "without preconditions" in the hope of resolving the dispute which blacked-out live news programs for 24 hours earlier this week [WAMN: 24-May-05].

BBC director general Mark Thompson wants to axe up to 4,000 jobs as part of a £355 million ($649m; €515m) cost-reduction package, which he has pledged to reinvest in programming.

Thompson admits that his plans, scheduled for completion by 2008, make for "an uncomfortable and challenging period inside the BBC", but insists the need for change will not go away. However, he concedes: "We're prepared to be flexible about how we go about it."

Comments union official Gerry Morrissey: "The fact they are prepared to come to ACAS means they are willing to negotiate, but what we don't know is whether the concessions are going to be big enough."

  • Meanwhile, the chairman of the BBC's board of governors Michael Grade has rejected the government's idea of 'top slicing' the corporation's licence fee income to fund rival public service broadcasters.

    Grade warns it would "pose a threat to the political independence of the BBC, handing a punitive fiscal sword of Damocles to any unscrupulous government that wanted to bring the BBC to heel."

    The governors want any review of funding to be put on the back-burner until after the planned digital signal switchover in 2012.

    Grade does, however, accept the recommendation that the board of governors should be replaced by a new, more accountable trust.

    Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff